As president of Fraternity Management Group I’ve worked with nearly a 100 fraternities/sororities and over 1,000 volunteers and chapter officers during my 35 years as a professional and volunteer serving the fraternal community. This is my top 15 ideas for establishing and maintaining a successful fraternity or sorority that will stand the test of time and continue to be an organization creating value for alumni/ae, undergraduates, headquarters, and the campuses we are on.
#1 – Know why fraternities & sororities fail and why your chapter has failed in the past. Don’t be afraid to be different. Innovate to excel. Have a plan in place for each area that has been a challenge for your chapter in the past.
#2 – Align with headquarters and regional volunteers. Know their goals. Communicate often. Attend conferences.
#3 – For a chapter planning a return to campus or a re-focus on developing a strong chapter, develop a 18-month calendar for your chapter return/re-focus on success.
#4 – Develop a vision that alumni/ae, parents, and undergraduates “buy-into” and then be intentional in achieving it by evaluating progress towards goals weekly to bi-weekly. Understand that your online brand impacts who volunteers and what students join.
#5 – Engage with purpose with your university and fraternity partners. How can you benefit them and how can they benefit you?
#6 – Committed and engaged volunteers that are “in the trenches” with the undergraduates on a weekly to bi-weekly basis (it does not need to be a significant amount of time each meeting but it does need to be consistent to build lasting, trusting relationships). Understand that meetings do not need to be in-person all the time (you can do virtual meetings). Do not move forward until you have committed volunteers. Recruit to meeting micro needs and not just positions – academics, activities/events/social, accountability, alumni/ae & parent relations, campus partnerships, campus & chapter involvement, career networking, finances, goals/awards, health & wellness, housing, leadership development, recruitment, risk management, ritual, service/philanthropy, volunteerism, etc. ABBA – Advise by being around.
#7 – Ensure your Advisory Board, Educational Foundation (if you have one), and House Corporation each have at least 5-11 committed volunteers. A volunteer succession plan needs to be in place. Ensure that the chapter undergraduates (especially leaders) develop a relationship with volunteers and understand the purpose of each volunteer board. Note: if you expect undergraduates to be future volunteers, understand that the learn by watching. They must see engaged volunteers to develop the interest of being a future volunteer.
#8 – Recruit alumni/ae willing to serve on in-person or virtual career panels and/or to hold 1 on 1 or small group calls with undergraduates talking about careers. Identify 25-100 alumni/ae committed to giving a little time.
#9 – Recruit to your vision – volunteers and undergrads have to 100% be on-board with who you are recruiting. Brand everything to the vision. Be intentional in recruiting to exactly what you are looking for.
#10 – Follow a process – written programs, bylaws, goals, checklists, policies, and especially successful on-boarding of members, etc. You must commit to developing a fraternity that creates value for alumni/ae, parents, undergraduates, the university, headquarters, etc. Really understand the importance of establishing culture in the chapter and ensure undergraduate and volunteer leadership are helping achieve this.
#11 – Ensure the right chapter officers and key committee chairs are elected/appointed and that they are committed to chapter excellence and enforcing accountability 100% of the time, especially with alcohol, drugs, and hazing. Additionally, that they are focused on the health & wellness of their members. Training and consistent communication with volunteers is key.
#12 – Guide the chapter and the members into understanding the “Pyramid of Success”. Help them understanding how the building blocks lead to success at the top for both the chapter and them as individuals. Create a competitive spirit.
#13 – Complete a membership review every 1-2 years to ensure all members who remain are committed to chapter excellence and lifetime commitment.
#14 – A commitment to excelling with alumni/ae relations, parent relations, and career networking & preparation will make a difference. Creating a fun environment that creates value for everyone is important.
#15 – Develop and follow an organizational plan that involves semester, year, 2-year, and 3-year plans.
Please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if I can give more clarity on a subject area and also if you have some ideas on how to help a chapter succeed.